I got my Kindle in September as a birthday present from my parents and it’s quickly become a gadget I use every day. If you’re not aware of what a Kindle is, it’s Amazon’s own e-book reader, an electronic device which allows you to download and view books purchased on their website and some downloaded from a few others. It’s been available in the US for a few years now, but only made it to the UK shores last September and sold out like crazy for the first couple of months.
When it comes to reading the biggest things for are how the look and feel. If a book feels cheap and tacky material-wise with overly stiff spines and plastic pages it kinda ruins the whole reading experience for me. Thankfully the Kindle feels pretty good. The plastic casing wasn’t too bad, and adding a case to it made it feel a lot better. I’ve never seen e-paper before, but if the Kindle is much to go by it manages to look pretty damn similar to actual paper and reading from it isn’t a problem at all. It also doesn’t have back-lighting and while that would probably bother some people (and make it possible to read in the dark) I actually found it to be easier on the eyes that way. The official case provides a light to shine down on the screen, but the £50 price tag was a little too pricey for my liking as it’s 1/2 the cost of the Kindle again.
The main reason I wanted it though was just how much less space it takes up compared to even a single large-sized paperback and is a hell of a lot easier to carry around, especially when you get a cover to protect the front screen (It’s pretty annoying that you don’t even get a flimsy plastic one included as standard). The ability to store a pretty large collection of books that you can carry around with you is a big must, and if I imagine it would make any student’s bags a hell of a lot lighter. For novels the ability to just go online and grab hold of the next book in a series is a definite plus, especially if you have the 3G version and “whispernet” which essential gives you a lot of free internet access across a number of countries around the globe.
At the time when I got mine I didn’t have much money available, so I stuck to the realm of free books, classics and suchlike that were in the public domain for one reason or another and for this it was amazing. This is where it starts to fall apart a little… Before release the selection of books available in the UK Kindle store did a fair job of rivaling the US one. Unfortunately all sorts of fuss was kicked up between Amazon and publishers and this all vanished not even 2 weeks into release, leaving behind a few good books but hardly a good selection. This left anyone holding a Kindle a little stuck for reading selection and most of the series that suffered lay in the Science Fiction and Fantasy categories, which I tend to lean heavily towards. The remaining books were bumped up in price too, making it less than tempting to buy the electronic versions.
Eventually over the last few weeks the old releases starting to trickle back in at a heavily inflated price. 1984 for instance, the ebook costs several pounds more than the paperback version*. There’s a number of reasons you could argue for ebooks not being super-cheap, VAT being one of them, but having them more expensive than the print books is just plain ridiculous and takes away the attraction of getting a device that would have originally saved them money in the long run. As it is it’s much more feasible for people to just find pirated copies of the books they really want or just delve further in the selections available within the public domain. They say that nothing discourages piracy than making it easier for people to get hold of the legitimately than try to steal it, and considering how easy the Kindle store is to use I can fully believe that. It’s just a shame it’s so devoid of life…
I love my Kindle very much, but really think hard before you pick one up yourself. It’s only going to go down in price and there’s some serious kinks in the system that need working out first.
* When I started writing this up this was the scene all over the Kindle store and I had examples abound, but it seems that someone’s decided that this isn’t a good business strategy for a new product and the prices have come down a lot on some of the less new books. There’s still a fair way to go, but this makes me a lot more hopeful that the device isn’t doomed yet.